Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

John11: 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.
21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha , the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

The above scripture is from the Book of John, in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. It is an excerpt from the familiar story of the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. 

My pastor at Buda United Methodist preached on this scripture once before. He made the point that in verse 21 Martha’s words show that she understands; she really gets it about Jesus. If he had been there, her brother would not have died. He would still be alive because of the healing, creative power of Emmanuel.

But then, skip down to verse 39, where Jesus commands that the stone be removed. Just 18 verses later, Martha explains to Jesus that Lazarus has been dead for four days and he ‘stinketh’. Whoa! Don’t roll away the stone. I am heartbroken for my brother, but, uh, as much as I loved him, I am not prepared for the smell! Let’s just not go there, Jesus! 

Where was the faith of verses 21-22? What happened? That same faith, which is surely more than a mustard seed seems to have vanished.

Surely, if Jesus can heal, he can make stench disappear. What happened was Martha’s humanness. Martha went from the life-saving, creative faith to the knowledge of the world without considering what happens with God.

I have suffered from this same malady. I will call it the “Martha syndrome.” Sometimes, I enter into lay-ministry and perform acts that are based on faith and belief that defy the natural. Through the grace of God, I get it right. I know in my spirit that I have gotten it right, similar to Martha in verses 21-22. 

Then, something happens. Like Martha, usually within the hour, I revert to the ways of the world without realizing what I am doing. And I do something that once I am aware of what I have done, I just want to kick myself. I realize just how unworthy I am on my own. I am like a child who has been cooped up inside with adults all day, minding my manners, who is let outside with my peers and the good manners drop by the wayside.

I get really frustrated with this aspect of my faith journey. One day, I was counseling a member of a board that I chair in a particular ministry. He was frustrated and had expressed anger at a particular situation and then wanted to resign from the board because of the situation in which he found himself.

I explained to him that I believe in my ‘heart of hearts’ that if, when engaged in ministry, we don’t pour ourselves almost to the point of exhaustion, get frustrated, get stretched, reach and get chased out of our comfort zone, beyond the shadow of a doubt, we are not doing it right. Ministry from a lay person’s point of view is not a bed of roses. I have never operated in the role of a pastor, but I believe that it probably is not a bed of roses either. I think that this board member reached understanding and reconciliation with the event, and decided that he didn’t need to resign after all.
I was pleased that the Holy Spirit had given me the right words, and that I had yielded to the Spirit to have the right words for the moment. I was feeling really good about this.

An hour later, I had to drive into the city to cash a check at a bank. I am a country girl, and Austin, Texas has been said to have the most congested traffic in the nation, second only to New York City, New York. Country girls don’t like traffic congestion. We like wide open spaces. I grew frustrated on many levels, and before I arrived back home, I had lost my temper.

Like Martha, I had gone from verses 21-22 all the way down to verse 39. I went from yielding to the spirit to succumbing to temptation. I think that God allowed this to happen to keep me humble, and to show me that without him, I am helpless, and unworthy. Any worthiness that I have is only through Christ. Without him, I am nothing.

About 2 weeks later, I had the opportunity to visit a patient in the hospital to minister until my pastor could arrive at the end of a day-long meeting. I prayed before I entered the hospital, asking the Lord to lead, guide and direct me and to help me to yield to the spirit and simply be his vessel. The visit went well. Again, I knew in my heart of hearts that I was operating like Martha in verses 21-22. But, I knew from experience, God was about to show me something. He would show me where I needed to improve. And he did. Now I have come to expect for him to show me something. I hope it is not too harsh of a lesson. And usually, the gentleness of the lesson is in direct proportion to the amount of gentleness that I employ in the ‘teaching moment’. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

So I pray that I will become humble within myself, yet bold in Christ.


Thankfulness Challenge and Joy Dare
Today, I am thankful for :

87. Fog, for that is what the Lord has given us, so with fog, I will be happy.
88. Seeing water in Onion Creek for the first time I can remember
89. Hugs from my sons just when I need it the most.
90. The beautiful souls in my prayer group who make my life more rich.

Linking up today with Laura Boggess:

copyright 2012 by Kathy Robbins

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I've been there, Kathy. It's so very humbling, isn't it? Look where I go when I live in my flesh and forget whose I am. These teaching moments...I pray I learn too. Praying with you.